Last updated: Oct 01, 2008
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To pink or not to pink? That is the question.
(INVENTORSPOT.COM)
Even though my favorite color is green, I've picked up a lot of pink products over the years—dozens of pink-lidded cartons of yogurt, a pink chopping knife, pink breath mints, pink lipstick, and even a pair of pink boxing gloves, all in the name of breast cancer research. I've always felt satisfaction snapping up pink-ribbon products, believing that I was helping to raise a significant amount of money to help prevent or cure a disease that will strike 250,000 women this year alone.


But these days I don't have a lot of money to give to charity (hello, recession) or spend on things I don't need, so when I do buy a "breast cancer" product I want to make sure that a good chunk of my purchase is going to the actual cause and not to some foundation's overpaid president, or to a manufacturer more interested in cashing in on a disease than actually funding its cure.

Not that I want to rain on anybody's pink parade, but I also don't want to be pink'd.

To bone up on pink-ribbon politics, I tuned into the "Think before you pink" campaign launched six years ago by Breast Cancer Action, a national education and activist organization. Thinkbeforeyoupink.org helps consumers figure out which pink-ribbon products do the most good, and blows the whistle on what they call "pinkwashers" (companies that claim to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon campaign, but manufacture products that may be linked to the disease—like cars that spew exhaust or yogurt with growth hormones).


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According to thinkbeforeyoupink.org, here are the questions I should ask:

  • How much money from the purchase actually goes toward breast cancer?
  • What is the maximum amount that will be donated?
  • What breast cancer organization/programs does the money go to?
Turns out that when I felt all warm and fuzzy last year after handing out a bagful of pink-ribbon Tic Tacs to family and friends, my $23 worth of good feelings (30 boxes at 79 cents) only gave the charity CancerCare a total of $1.50, and then only if Tic Tacs hadn't already reached its donation max of $100,000 for the two-month campaign. And Everlast, which makes the pink boxing gloves I bought for about $35, only donated 5 percent of glove sales to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Gee, that's means I helped raise another $1.75.

Once you know where your money is going, you can hop onto charity navigator, a site that rates charities based on their financial health and organizational efficiency. For instance, if you buy a pink-ribbon product that donates part of the purchase price to Susan G. Komen for the Cure (funds research and prevention), Breast Cancer Network of Strength (offers emotional support to sufferers), or Breast Cancer Research Foundation (funds research and hikes breast health awareness), it's nice to know that those charities get four stars, the highest rating. CancerCare, which helps cancer victims with financial problems, also has a good rating with three stars.

I'm not really knocking Tic Tacs or most of the other pink-ribbon efforts. Actual fund-raising aside, I've always thought seeing those bright ribbons everywhere probably did other good: reminding women to get mammograms or to send Aunt Alice a card congratulating her on finishing chemotherapy. And, hey, if you have a pack-a-day breath mint habit, why not buy the pink ones for the couple of months they're available?

But I can't help but feel there are better ways for me to help prevent and cure breast cancer. Like writing a check that goes directly to the BC charity of my choice. Which I'm going to do right now—with my pink-ribbon pen.